Skift

Starwood’s Loyalty Program Is Experimenting on Snapchat

  • Travel marketers aren’t limiting themselves to millennials or Instagram.

    Instead, some are already marketing to Generation Z and making big moves on social media platforms like Snapchat, which has several billion daily video views and 100 million active users — 45% of which are between the ages of 18 to 24, according to comScore.

    That’s why Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), the loyalty program for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, is experimenting even more with Snapchat, debuting SPG-branded Snapchat Geofilters across all of its brands, at 650 Starwood properties located in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Now, when Snapchat users visit one of those properties, they can add an SPG filter to their photos and videos and share them on the platform.

    The filters, of which there will initially be about six or seven, vary depending on the hotel’s location and property type, whether it’s a beach resort or a meetings hotel, for example. More will be added throughout the duration of the campaign, which will run for the next two months.

    Christine Espinoza, associate director of global social media strategy for SPG, said that the filters were purposely designed to be easily applied to each of Starwood’s 11 brands and various hotel properties. The Geofilters include messages that include “Hello From _____;” “Checking In”; and “Do Not Disturb,” for example, and all employ the use of SPG’s signature purple color to emphasize brand awareness for the loyalty program. Some filters utilize iconic travel markers like a cocktail, camera, or face mask.

    “We wanted to make sure we put out creative that tapped into social behaviors that people would actually want to use versus being overly branded and obtrusive,” Espinoza said. “Maybe they’re there for a work meeting or a relaxing vacation, or celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. We wanted to tap into those key social behaviors in travel.”

    Hotels Are Starting to Get More Snap(chat) Happy

    Hospitality companies have been on Snapchat as early as December 2014, when Marriott debuted a three-month campaign featuring four influencers. Earlier this year, Hilton HHonors made its Snapchat debut by offering Snapchat users behind-the-scenes peeks at a Jason Derulo concert at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Both Hilton HHonors and Marriott Rewards have Snapchat accounts, as well.

    In October 2015, Starwood’s W Hotels brand was the first travel brand to debut a Geofilters campaign and the success of that prompted SPG to follow suit, said Espinoza, and use this new campaign to further experiment with the channel.

    She said that when Starwood first launched the W Hotels Geofilters, Snapchat gave the company an initial estimate on the expected views. By the end of the campaign, the expected views totaled more than double than those estimates. Espinoza said Snapchat also told W Hotels that the conversion rate — the number of people who actually used the filters versus those who just saw them — “had a much higher conversion rate than other paid filters.”

    “In terms of ROI, this is really about understanding the behavior of our guests on this channel,” she said. “We don’t have a brand presence on Snapchat in terms of an SPG account … once we get a grasp on how our guests are using Snapchat, we can understand how we can enter this channel in a way that makes sense and drives value for our guests because it’s such a new and emerging channel.”

    Snapchat’s Unique, Visual Storytelling Capabilities for Brands

    Espinoza and other social media strategists are also quick to point out that brands need a different kind of approach when using Snapchat compared to other social media channels like Instagram.

    Tom Jauncey, head of brand partnerships for Beautiful Destinations, works with a variety of brands on their social media campaigns across a variety of platforms. He says that if Instagram is “the end picture,” Snapchat is the “behind-the-scenes story.”

    “Snapchat is all real time. It’s about snapping questions and asking questions about more,” he said. “It’s a really interesting avenue where you take inspiration and discover to the next level — live and in the moment.”

    Espinoza also echoed Jauncey’s sentiments, saying, “Snapchat is a different type of storytelling. For our campaign with Snapchat, our approach is to create the filters and let our guests tell the story; it’s more of a UGC [user-generated content] approach.”

    She added. “We know our guests are sharing their experiences on Snapchat and telling their experiences at the hotels. This is really facilitating that. Versus when we run ads with Instagram, it’s really us telling the story. We’re creating the story. It’s just a slightly different approach.”

    Should SPG or the other hospitality companies consider delivering more of their own stories, however, they may want to see if they can break into Snapchat’s coveted Discover feature, a section on Snapchat where media brands have an easily accessible feed for all of their Snapchat stories. Unlike other companies that include National Geographic, Vice, BuzzFeed, and ESPN, there aren’t any major hotel companies that are featured in Discover. It’ll be interesting to see if Snapchat eventually opens up this feature to travel and hospitality brands outside of traditional media.

    It’s clear there’s still plenty of room for hospitality brands to continue to grow their presence on Snapchat, and pioneering brands like Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton are starting to do just that.

    Photo Credit: Starwood Preferred Guest is launching a two-month Snapchat Geofilters campaign today. Starwood Preferred Guest

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